Trading Souls is the sophomore release from Empire, the super-group project from guitarist Rolf Munkes. This time around, Mokes has pulled in former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin, Deep Purple keyboard player Don Airey, former Whitesnake/Rainbow/Black Sabbath bassist Neil Murray, and drummers Gerald Kloos and Anders Johansson. The end result is a melodic hard rock album with catchy anthems and great ensemble playing.
It's wonderful to hear Tony Martin back on the scene again. His vocals on the catchy opener "One in a Million" signals a direction that perhaps this fine singer should steer towards, that being melodic hard rock in the tradition of classic Whitesnake. The same can be said for "Teenage Deadhead", a mellow tune that hints of perhaps Riverdogs, with sweeping melodies and tuneful acoustic guitar work from Mokes. Fans of heavier music will love "Big World, Little Man", the catchy riff-o-rama of "You" , or the guitar crunch of "Wherever You Go." Munkes proves to be a capable guitarist, not one to overplay, but injects plenty of meaty riffs and wah-wah tinged solos throughout. His thick chords and harmonic fills are highlighted on the upbeat closer "Back in the Light", a song whose lyrics tells of the desire for this type of music to once again top the charts.
While certainly breaking no new ground, Trading Souls is an enjoyable release. It would have been interesting to see what impact a few of these songs would have had on the music scene had they come out in 1988.